This is a series focused on personal journey with eczema while managing a certain aspect of life. Today, we have Lauren, whose 3 year old son has severe eczema in his first year, and shares how she manages eczema for a newborn. Lauren plays and teaches bassoon in Traverse City, Michigan.
Marcie Mom: Hi Lauren, it’s good to have you share in this series! Let’s start with you sharing a little of your son’s eczema – when did it start and how was his skin at his worst then?
Lauren: Hi, Mei. Rhys developed cradle cap (a yellow, scaly crust on his scalp) around two months of age and developed body-wide severe eczema at three months of age. I first noticed a problem when one day he started to repeatedly rub his eyes and face with his hands. He was not yet coordinated enough to truly scratch. The red skin and rashes followed, at first on his face, and later nearly everywhere else. At its worst, his skin was inflamed, crusty, and oozing and the plasma would soak through his clothes and bed sheets. It was quite similar to a very bad reaction to poison ivy.
Marcie Mom: Allergy testing isn’t accurate in the first few months of a newborn’s life – did you have difficulty finding out his triggers in the first year?
Lauren: My husband and I had tremendous difficulty and often had disagreements stemming from the mystery of it all. That first year we took Rhys to three different doctors and also to non-traditional (in the American sense) healers. I stopped consuming dairy for about a month because I was breastfeeding, we eliminated all detergents from our home – even shampoos and toothpastes containing detergents, and we kept Rhys away from our cats. No lifestyle change seemed to make an obvious improvement.
Marcie Mom: How and when did the eczema improve?
Lauren: During the first year, it was a combination of two events. First, Rhys’s pediatrician realized he couldn’t fully help and referred us to a dermatologist. The dermatologist prescribed Triamcinolone, a strong topical steroid, and frequent moisturizing. I believe he gave us samples of CeraVe. Second, around the same time, I spoke with a friend whose son has food allergies. She told me dairy consumption was often a trigger for eczema breakouts and other allergic reactions and convinced me to again eliminate dairy from my diet. She also told me about a friend of hers whose child had severe eczema. The pediatric dermatologist in that case had advised to (1) give the child three lukewarm baths a day, using cleanser only on soiled areas, (2) use topical steroid as needed on “hot spots” after the bath, and (3) moisturize on still-damp skin. The triamcinolone broke the cycle of inflammation and the frequent bathing and moisturizing helped his skin’s resiliency. Moisturizing red and oozing skin never worked; it was really only effective at maintaining healthy skin.
As you mentioned, Rhys is now three. We no longer give him baths three times a day, but we do moisturize after baths and as needed throughout the day and we use the steroid Fluticasone Propionate Cream for break-outs. We still avoid detergents and products with synthetic scents. Rhys underwent allergy testing late last summer and due to the results and personal experience, we now avoid peanuts, tree nuts, legumes, dairy, and eggs. If Rhys begins to scratch uncontrollably, the dermatologist gave us permission to give him children’s strength antihistamine. We have so many more pieces of the puzzle figured out now, not all, but many. Most of Rhys’s skin is now smooth and healthy.
Marcie Mom: One final question – what advice would you give to a mom who has a family history of eczema/allergy and preparing for the newborn?
Lauren: Eat the healthiest possible foods while pregnant. Some might even advise you to eat as much chemical-free and organic food as possible while pregnant. If your baby develops the symptoms I mentioned, do your best to keep the baby from scratching and seek help. If your child’s healthcare provider has never seen such a severe case of eczema, find a healthcare provider who has already seen and treated a case like your child’s before. And don’t blame yourself. Your baby will outgrow some triggers, like the drooling that accompanies teething.
Marcie Mom: Thank you Lauren for your sharing, many moms can identify with it and hopefully every baby grows out of eczema.